The New York Islanders lost a franchise centre when Tavares moved north to Toronto. So it would be fair to say fans might be a little upset about losing their captain; a guy who single handedly dominates games night in and night out is almost irreplaceable. However, the future looks bright in Brooklyn.
On June 6th, 2018 the Islanders fired their head coach and GM and replaced the latter with new president Lou Lamoriello. Welcome to the new Islanders.
When a team loses a top centre, someone must fill the void. Enter Matthew Barzal. Let's just say even after the incredible season he had I don't think he will enjoy the same run of success in the post-Tavares age, at least not immediately. This season's Islanders are probably not going to make the playoffs, but there's more then a few decent prospects in the Islanders pipeline who could make the jump to the NHL this season.
The best Isles prospects not currently in the NHL are without a doubt goalie Ilya Sorokin (who's been phenomenal in the KHL) and sensational winger Kieffer Bellows. Sorokin is technically signed in the KHL through 2020 but after 4 seasons in the KHL it is probably a good time to bring him over.
I watched Kieffer play at the WJC for the US and he was all over the ice, it was obvious every time he stepped over the boards because he was always buzzing around the puck. I fully expect him to break onto this roster this season or next and immediately make an impact for this rebuilding franchise, possibly on a line with Barzal and Wahlstrom.
Back to the task at hand. Oliver Wahlstrom. Half Swedish, half American, pure goal scorer. Standing at just over 6 feet tall and already over 200 pounds of pure muscle, this kid is NHL ready. He's a winger with an edge and a perfect linemate for the new number one centre in Brooklyn.
If I was Matthew Barzal on draft day I would have been fist pumping till the cows come home that Oliver somehow slipped all the way down to the Isles. Islander fans, say hello to your new favorite goal scorer. This is a kid who I think will have consistent 30 goal seasons, and be a dynamic threat on the powerplay. His shot reminds me a little of Brock Boeser's... it's got a quick semi deceptive release to it.
I had Wahlstrom pegged to go in the top five, ranked as the third best forward in the entire draft. Oliver is a menace in the offensive zone, he has a wicked release on his shot but he also knows when to make a pass too. Furthermore he's hard to contain on the walls, constantly making plays that seem to dazzle defenceman.
If there was a knock to be had on this dynamic scorer it would be his defence. However he is far from a slouch in his own end.
Wahlstrom put up over a point-per-game pace last season in a tough league and could potentially crack the opening night roster due to his size and compete level.
The Isles' can thank a few teams in front of them for passing on this scorer. Pure snipers are rare and snipers that are 200 pounds in their draft year are even more rare. I fully expect this kid to explode onto the scene and never look back.